AN Oxford IT consultant who competed for an $8.1 million cash prize in a Vegas poker tournament crashed out of the contest after a tough two days.

Sam Gilbert, 36 from Headington, returned home with his wife Anna after failing to succeed in the World Series of Poker main event this month.

After winning a free online 888poker tournament in June, Mr Gilbert was awarded with the first place prize – a seat at the annual Texas Hold Em' Tournament, which would normally cost $10,000, and a five-night stay at the glamorous Vdara Hotel with his wife.

The football fan, who has been playing poker for about 18 years, did not think he would be missing the World Cup to be competing against 7,873 other players in the tournament, but ended up back home in time to watch England play in the semi finals against Croatia.

The couple began their trip with a three -ight stay at The Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas, before going to the pre-paid Vdara Hotel where they met the hosts from 888poker, such as ambassadors Sofia Lovgren and Chris Moorman.

As the tournament began on July 2, Mr Gilbert made a good start, increasing his starting chips from 50,000 to 70,000 in under four hours.

Unfortunately, as million-dollar winners and professionals joined the table – including English poker player James Akenhead – Mr Gilbert saw his luck run out, and finished the day with only 20,000 chips.

However, the Oxford man refused to be disheartened by the setback.

He said: "The main thing I needed to achieve on day one was achieved, I had survived."

Completing day one was not the only thing that Mr Gilbert was happy with, as he was also helping to make poker history at the Vegas tournament: the biggest crowd the competition had ever seen.

He said: "I was also proud to be part of a record-breaking crowd.

"This day was officially the largest starting flight in the history of the WSOP with 4,571 people putting up the $10,000 on this day alone."

Unfortunately, day two was even less successful for Mr Gilbert, as he lost all his remaining chips before the end of play.

Despite the loss and missing out on the $8.1 million prize, he again demonstrated his optimistic attitude.

He said afterwards: "I wasn't sad, as I was very happy to have had the opportunity, moreover to compete well with the poker greats.

"I also had a lovely safety net of now having a couple of extra days to explore Vegas with my wife before flying home. "

The couple stayed in Vegas for a total of eight nights before returning home to Oxford, and England's growing World Cup success, on Sunday, July 8.